China Crisis Working with Fire and Steel
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- by Beck ~ Morning Phase ~ $12.56
- Released: September 1, 1984
- Label: EMI Europe
- 1.Working With Fire and Steel
- 2.When the Piper Calls
- 3.Hanna Hanna
- 4.Animals in Jungles
- 5.Here Come a Raincloud
- 6.Wishful Thinking
- 7.Tragedy and Mystery
- 9.The Gates of Door to Door
- 10.The Soul Awakening
Personnel: Eddie B. (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, synthesizer); Gary (vocals, grand piano, synthesizer); Mark Levy (violin); Gary Barnacle (flute); Steve Mac (oboe); Luke Tunney (flugelhorn); Robert Pollard (synthesizer); Kevin 131 (snare drum, drum machine, hi-hat, tom tom, percussion, electronic percussion).
Recording information: Amazon; The Manor.
Photographer: Sheila Rock.
Arranger: China Crisis.
One of the most criminally overlooked singles of the early '80s, China Crisis' "Working With Fire and Steel" displayed exactly what was great, fresh, and exciting about the wonderfully postmodern British new wave movement. From its perfectly Teutonic 142 bpm, to its insistent fretless bassline and Aztec Camera-like acoustic guitar flourishes, "Working With Fire and Steel" seemed a likely candidate to succeed "Wishful Thinking" as the group's biggest-selling single. Why it did not is a question for the ages. The fault certainly did not lie in the musicianship (which was stellar and creative throughout). Nor did it lie in the overall production, which was a benchmark effort from producer Mike Howlett (who also helmed hits for A Flock of Seagulls, Blancmange, and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark). Where then, was the trouble? It may have actually lied in the general public's inability to embrace Gary Daly's sometimes hiccup-y vocal stylings (since the band's biggest single "Wishful Thinking" actually featured guitarist/keyboardist Eddie Lundon
on lead vocals). Quibbles aside, the song itself (and its accompanying extended remix) hold up well against more dated-sounding efforts from similar bands of the period. The remix, in classic fashion, just gives the listener more of what they want: heavier kick drum, more prominent bass, and the obligatory instrumental and rhythmic breakdowns. The B-side tracks, "Dockland" and "Forever I and I," are both stark and pastoral instrumentals which evoke the tender and melodic approach of previous singles like "Christian" and "Wishful Thinking." Of the two, the Gary Daly-penned "Forever I and I" is more tuneful and echoes a Cocteau Twins-like melodic sense with its layers of synths and treated guitars. The quality of the remix, and the addition of the two (otherwise unreleased) instrumentals, make this EP one to watch out for in the record bins. ~ J. Scott McClintock
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